It was a three day, total immersion in pro football for the 33 rookies and first year players at the Bills rookie minicamp this weekend. The rookie camp wrapped up Sunday after a 90-minute workout inside the Healthy Zone Fieldhouse.
And for the rookie defensive backs, it was three days of intensive drilling on technique and fundaments. New Bills Secondary Coach Donnie Henderson spent much of his time with the DB group hammering away on footwork and hand placement, the nuts and bolts of defensive back play.
"At this level, it's all about angles and definitely about technique, said rookie CB Jumal Rolle. The undrafted free agent from Catawba College finished off his weekend with a nice interception of EJ Manuel. And he says the emphasis on fundamentals and technique helped him get better.
"All week, Coach has been hard on us and really tough on us about feet and hands," Rolle said. "First we started with feet, and then we worked with our hands. With today, making it the last day, putting everything together, we had a better day overall. "
Fourth round draft pick Duke Williams, a safety from Nevada, says Henderson's main focus is on "hips and hands."
"It's all about your feet, your hands and your eyes," Williams said after practice Sunday. "That's what you play with as a defender. If you don't have hips and hands, you're useless. He likes to preach hips and hands and it's working for us. As you can see, we're making plays at the end of the day. It's a pretty good technique to use and all the guys are getting it down."
MANUEL GETS BULK OF SNAPS
For the third straight day, first round draft pick EJ Manuel got the majority of quarterback snaps during the seven-on-seven work, by a three-to-one margin. Manuel took 27 snaps of seven on seven work Sunday, compared to 9 for free agent rookie Jeff Tuel. Manuel completed 13 of his 26 attempts. He had a couple of passes dropped and threw two interceptions late in the third session of seven on seven work.
PAYING FOR PICKS
After the second of Manuel's two late interceptions, Offensive Coordinator Nathaniel Hackett had the entire offensive squad do a series of "up-downs." The unit ran in place, dropped to the ground for a series of push-ups, then jumped back up to continue running in place. It looks like an effective way to emphasize the importance of ball security and avoiding turnovers.
KAUFMAN STANDS TALL
Free agent rookie WR Brandon Kaufman had a solid Sunday with several catches. The Bills lined him up wide and in the slot, and he seemed to be a favorite target of both EJ Manuel and Jeff Tuel. His stature might have something to do with that. Kaufman stands 6-feet-5-inches tall. He had an incredibly productive career at Eastern Washington, catching 221 passes over four years, 33 of them for touchdowns. Kaufman is regarded as a possession receiver and he showed his value Sunday by making several good catches over the middle.
Kaufman said working out of the slot is a new look for him, but something he loves to do.
"In college, I played just outside," he said. "I'm loving the change. I love being inside, I love working across the middle. The quarterbacks did a great job the last three days helping me out and I feel good about it."
Most of the rookies in camp the last three days will stay on for the first week of organized team activity, which starts Monday. But Kaufman won't be one of them.
"I wish I wish, I have to go back to school," he said. "I'm a junior. It's killing me right now. I really want to be out here and be with all the vets and learn from the best in the offseason. I'm just going to go home and work my hardest, stay in touch with Coach Hilliard and come back into camp in great shape."
TRANSITION INTO OTAs
Bills veterans return Monday for three days of Organized Team Activity. It's the first of three straight weeks of OTAs, with rookie and veterans on the field and in the classroom. After the OTAs, it's the three-day Mandatory Minicamp that starts Tuesday, June 11th.